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By Carl Howe

Only a couple days before Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone is released, so the measure of how many news stories have contained the word "iPhone" in the last 24 hours (7,875), is climbing. We're expecting the number of stories to easily cross 10,000 by Friday when the iPhone actually goes on sale.

The big news yesterday was a press release confirming that iPhone customers can activate their phones entirely via iTunes without ever talking to an AT&T (NYSE:T) store or representative. We predicted this previously as the only way that made sense for Apple to serve the huge demand created by the iPhone; we're glad to see the facts out in public view.

This may seem like a little thing, but automated activation is a huge change for the mobile phone industry in the US (Europeans have not had any form of phone activation for years, because their accounts and credit are all tied to the Subscriber Identity Modules, not to the phones). It removes one more bit of friction to the phone purchase and allows the consumer to consider their phone plans in the comfort of their home instead of under the pressured eye of a salesperson. And AT&T, in exchange, gets a much lower cost -- and higher profit -- transaction. It's eCommerce all over again, except with mobile phones. And it's about time; the US has been in the mobile phone dark ages far too long.

As an aside, there's a great video showing exactly how the iTunes activation works on Apple's site (that's where the image above came from). And really astute viewers will get a sneak peak at the new 80 GByte iPhone about 6 minutes in when they show the capacity of the activated iPhone to be 74.40 GBytes. Don't we all wish it were true.

But with automated activation and data plans settled, let the Apple Store lines begin! Oh, wait, they already did....

Source: iPhone Watch: Three Days and Counting